With the diet wars between beef and tofu going on around now, I think there’s one thing most of us can agree on and that’s the wonders of one reliable protein source -- chicken. Chicken tends to be pretty cheap, easy to cook, high in protein and versatile from a culinary standpoint.
Even the most helpless dudes that I know at least know how to throw some chicken in the oven with a bit of S&P for their meal prep.
However, the convenience and ubiquity of chicken also gives the illusion that you can’t really go wrong in cooking it. As a pseudo-chef myself (seriously I’ve put in, like, 40,000 hours of Food Network), I’m here to tell you that it totally not the case. Let me help you make your meal prep just a bit tastier by making you aware of some chicken-cooking mistakes you may be making.
1.) Not Marinating It.
One of the reasons chicken is so popular no matter who you are because of how damn versatile it is. It takes up the flavor of pretty much whatever you throw on it. This is exactly why you should take advantage of it.
Making curried chicken salad? Brine that chicken in some buttermilk and curry powder for an hour first and get back to me. Even just soaking your chicken in a store-bought marinade for 15 minutes can make a huge difference to your final dish in terms of flavor. Also, marinading makes your chicken way juicier.
2.) Not Letting Your Chicken Rest
You’ve heard of letting your beef rest? The same rules apply to your chicken. If you aren’t familiar with the practice of “resting” your meat, it’s basically removing your protein from a heat source to allow the juices to settle in before you cut into it. If you have ever cut into a hot piece of meat straight out of the pan, you’ve probably noticed the beautiful sight of those juices running all over.
However, those are juices that are going into your cutting board, not your mouth, making for a drier piece of meat. Let your chicken rest for at least 5 minutes before slicing it and you’ll thank me in the morning.
3.) Only Cooking with Chicken Breasts
Chicken breasts are like the cookie to our monster in the fitness world. They’re high in protein, low in fat and super easy to incorporate into a variety of cuisines and meals, properly and neatly preserving your macro numbers hassle-free. However (and I know a client of mine who will be thrilled to hear this), chicken thighs can also be a great addition to your diet. Especially when you’re bulking and have more room for calories, they provide more flavor since they are from the bone and they are harder to overcook due to the fat content making them moister.
4.) Not Cooking It Evenly
I’m sure you’ve taken some chicken breasts out of the package and marveled at the size of it.
Wow, could have worded that better. Anyway. Moving on.
That being said, these pieces of chicken are nearly always thick in one spot and thinner in another and, as a result, when you cook it, the thinner parts end up overcooked and chewy with the thicker portions ending up raw in the middle. If you want to ensure more even cooking, I advise pounding out your chicken before you put them in the pan.
5.) Cooking with Cold Chicken
Who wants salmonella? I know I don’t. Chicken tartare is not a thing for a reason. That’s why I can’t blame you for being diligent about chilling your chicken as long as you can before cooking it. However, when you cook with cold chicken, the outside tends to cook faster than the inside which often leaves you with a chewy mess. So, my advice to is to let your chicken come to room temperature before cooking. Just don’t let it stay out for longer than 2 hours.